Reconsidering the Past, One Statue at a Time

Historians in the News
tags: colonialism, racism, memorials, Confederacy

The debate over how to represent the uncomfortable parts of American history has been going on for decades, but the traction for knocking down monuments seen in recent days raises new questions about whether it will result in a fundamental shift in how history is taught to new generations.

“It is a turning point insofar as there are a lot of people now who are invested in telling the story that historians have been laying down for decades,” said Julian Maxwell Hayter, a historian and associate professor at the University of Richmond.

He said that statues removed from parks and street corners could be teaching points if they are placed in museums, side-by-side with documents and first-person accounts from the era.

“Let’s say you put a Columbus statue in a museum and you show students the way Columbus was lionized in a history textbook and you have them read ‘Devastation of the Indies’ by de Las Casas,” he said. “Then you have to ask, why were people invested in telling this particular version of Christopher Columbus’s history?”

The calls to bring down monuments have spanned far and wide, in large cities like Philadelphia and rural places like Columbus, Miss., touching both relatively obscure historical figures and deeply revered cultural symbols.


Read entire article at New York Times

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